US and UK – California Dreaming – Part Two of Four

For some reason while eating Subway for dinner across the road from the Venice Beach Hostel, my notes recorded me realising that “writing is a valuable tool”. This is not elaborated on, but I do know I realised some time later that, as a lonesome traveller, keeping a journal was an alternative source of companionship in the absence of any reliable other. This was my second day in LA. The last thing I remembered from drinking as much as I could while jet-lagged with Eric the German guy the previous night, was smoking a cigarette in my room and forgetting I’d left the butt on a window sill. So I was hiding out at Subway among its Mexican staff, waiting for the cleaning crew to finish up and hoping my tobacco-based indiscretion would go either unnoticed or uncared for. I’d not woken until 3pm. Eric said he had thrown up twice, but felt better since. I had paid for most of his drinks, but this would with time prove fortuitous because he left LA a couple of days earlier than me and let me have the already paid for days’ hostel stay that he wouldn’t be using. While enduring a cold shower because I couldn’t figure out the faucet I flashed back to the previous night, when I’d encouraged my new German friend to kneel for a photo above a puddle of blood that once belonged to a recent gunshot victim. Cold showers sure can do that to you. After freshening up, I wandered south past Muscle Beach to the Venice Fishing Pier. Couldn’t walk its length. Knew I didn’t have it in me. Apparently, the hangover was “grating on my very soul”.

A boardwalk street vendor, back near the hostel, almost desperately urged me to listen to his music and make a donation. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I don’t like rap music. I noticed the number three bus splutter through the intersection at Windward and Pacific Aves three times in an hour, but like I said hadn’t seen it at the airport once during two hours the previous day. The hangover had teeth, and it battled every urge I had to move. The gunshot victim came to mind. There was no police tape around the scene, or chalk shaped outline of a person around the blood. He or she must have survived. There’s not really an atmosphere of violence running through Venice Beach, probably because it’s a tourist area. From the hostel’s second-floor outdoor smoking area, I did see one altercation that had the potential to turn nasty when a Negro walked up Windward past a trio of white bums. One of the bums muttered something to him. “A racist bum!” the Negro responded. “With a pee hat!” he continued, after turning around. Then: “Fuck you!” And finally he kept walking while continuing to make various allusions to violent vengeance with extreme prejudice. Later on, another bum decided to stand in the middle of Windward. It created a bizarre silent stand-off with westward-heading taxis, until he finally walked off.

I managed to rise by 9am the next day, and chatted with a happy British dude who had appeared in the dorm room overnight and was seeing the entire American west coast by bike. Braved Venice Beach’s seaweed riddled water and found it surprisingly warm. Then decided the weather was so beautiful I had to stay in LA a day longer than planned, before visiting San Francisco. The approximately five mile long and seemingly half-mile wide beach fronting Venice Beach and Santa Monica is apparently the place to be for thousands – year round. The hungover death-march from Venice to Santa Monica was gruelling but worth every ankle-aching step, if only to confirm that the Santa Monica Pier was nothing but a kitsch tourist attraction featuring overpriced food. I was relieved but at once slightly disappointed to have not seen anything so stereotypical as a busty blonde bimbo rollerblading along the boardwalk in a US flag bikini. Stopped at the Candle Cafe and Grill for a beer on the way back south, where I considered ceasing to tip as I apparently looked so poor that no-one bothered to give me friendly service. Bought and drank a couple of Budweisers then turned in for probably the first 8pm “nap” I’d ever had in my life. This meant awful sleep from about 11pm onward, especially after some prick’s alarm started going off. He slept through it. This would not be my final encounter with the early morning deaf and possibly drunk as well alarm sleep through freak. I changed my plans for the day from a visit to Downtown LA (known in Australia as a city’s CBD) to the Venice Beach Canals – an apparently short-lived attempt to imitate in Californian style Italy’s Venice canals. This was so I could factor in an expected afternoon nap. The end of this paragraph in my notes ends with a one-word sentence: “need.” I must have either fallen asleep or started drinking right then and there. I certainly didn’t get sex. Not that I didn’t then need and haven’t always needed it. Sex probably was what the out-of-place one-word sentence was referring to.

“America: still the land of the free; free to work if you’re an ethnic minority and free to play if you’re not (and basically are white).” This bizarre sentence was how I began the next paragraph of notes. I managed to do the Venice Beach Canals and Abbot Kinney Boulevard – the latter being a not terribly famous strip of main road shops running diagonally north-south through Venice Beach. The canals proved a relieving H2O break in lieu of large parks that LA seems to have in about the same abundance as England has sunny days. Placid, thin slivers of water played host to canoes and other small water craft that gathered moss on their barely used hulls. Colourful and eclectically flowered gardens fronted charming upper-middle class homes whose design seemed to be inspired by almost every type of international architecture. And there was duck shit everywhere. Abbot Kinney was full of pretentiously overpriced stores featuring clothing styles – again – borrowed from many cultures foreign to modern America, such as a lot of Native and South American. There were also intermittent art galleries. And an elementary (primary) school that looked like a prison for kids. “Fucking hot” – underlined several times in my notepad, in reference to the climate. Probably the next day. I philosophised next that “whether ethnic or not, it appears there’s definite purpose in all Americans, with the promise of atavistic enjoyment as reward”.

After only a few days in LA, I’d already seen two people puke on the street in broad daylight. A drunk and a junkie, in that order. Regurgitation and blood were two potent symbols of the problems California seemed to have. Spent $8US on some spruiker’s reggae CD. At least it’s better than rap. He said he was working on getting to the Big Day Out. Yeah, good luck. It’s what they’re all about saying in America: good luck and taking care. Take care and you might have good luck. Or if you don’t take care you’ll have bad luck and someone will end up “taking care” of you. Dirty feet, aching legs, senses ablaze. A perfect sunset readied itself for that last brave plunge beneath a horizon laying far beyond motionless palm trees, while a drone flute lilted across a thin strip of poverty between the sand and the shops. A drone flute. That’s what the dishevelled young American bloke was playing for his hostel accommodation and part of a plane ticket back to Columbia. He’d arrived there a few days earlier but was sent back by Columbian customs for reasons I could only guess at. Now his plans were to return to a northern Californian “farm” that grew “legal weed” and “work” for money to fly back down there. “Be good to others and the good ones will return the favour, the bad ones will change their minds and the evil ones will just do as they please as usual anyway”. Hmmm. Seems as good a time as any to start a new paragraph.


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